Photography is notoriously expensive. With cameras running upwards of $400 for a basic model body, and a good lens usually costing at least $250 or more, photographers quickly go broke working their way up to a respectable kit. For those who don't make a living off of the art, however, one can get by on some unorthodox gear choices. And if one has luck in the realm of bargain shopping, the act of scouting out cheap gear can become a game within itself.
What you see above was taken with such a lens. Though it is a pretty poor sample shot, it shows you that a decently artistic photo can be crafted on the cheap. And what glass was responsible for this picture? Photographed below, this lens is a prime (ha!) example of a dirt cheap lens. My second thrift store lens (in recent years) for $7, this baby isn't without its flaws. Unlike my first $7 lens, a 50mm Pentax-M f2 that was covered in grime but cleaned up nicely, this latest find isn't in full operational condition. Though physically clean with clear glass, this Sears 28mm f2.8 lens seems to have aperture blades stuck wide open at f2.8. For casual shooting, this isn't much of an issue, as I usually keep my glass open in most situations. And for $7, I'm not complaining in the least bit.
At this point, I fully intend on purchasing a Sony NEX-5 camera as soon as it is widely released. And assuming that a Pentax-K to E-Mount adapter will be available from third party vendors in short time, it would be nice to have a collection of cheap prime lenses to use on such a tiny body for casual and street shooting. Though I wont go out of my way to purchases lenses for such a use, there's no harm in having "extras" lying around. And often times, working within the constraints of manual focus and exposure forces you to critically examine potential shots in new ways.
I was lucky enough to take another trip out to Anza Borrego State Park these past few days, and managed to take my paper photography gear with me. Luckily, my friends are amazing, and let me take the long exposures required to get these shots right! The image below was taken of a gas station in Borrego Springs, which had only a single pump. Though the street was busy and people came and went, the long exposure made them disappear, and makes it look as though the station is abandoned. So far, this might be my favorite shot with this new method.
Here's another shot from my growing collection of photos captured using the techniques I wrote about in my previous post. This one was captured using a 70-300mm lens on a Pentax K1000 body, and the shot was (once again) about an hour long. At this point, I'm trying to figure out how long of an exposure is actually necessary to get a usable image, as the paper actually stops darkening at a point. Hopefully I'll be able to travel around a bit this week, and capture some even more interesting images!
I'm working on perfecting a photography technique right now that I've never actually seen done before. Based on the readings of a technique called Solargraphy, in which one documents the tracks made by the sun using a homemade pinhole camera and photographic paper as a film medium, this method I'm developing now harnesses a similar quirk of the photo process.
Photographic paper, the stuff that black and white photographers use in the dark room, is usually extremely sensitive to light, as it is developed and fixed in chemicals that bring out an image captured in a matter of seconds on the paper. But because it is so light sensitive, photographic paper also darkens when exposed to sunlight, which (in a sense) overexposes it to the point of visibility. Solargraphy utilizes this same quirk of the paper to let it act as a negative, capturing an image over the span of a matter of months. But Solargraphy uses a tiny pinhole, which lets in a minuscule amount of light. What if you used an actual camera, with a wide-aperture lens?
This is the result. Each one of these images takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to capture, depending on how bright the sun is. The "negative" that is created on the photographic paper is extremely impermanent, due to the fact that it cannot be fixed to halt any reactions that might occur. You basically get one chance to scan in the negative, after which the negative becomes even more faded from the light in the scanner. The images created with these methods are ethereal and oddly timeless, using unorthodox techniques to call back to a time when photography was much more inconvenient and difficult to master. It's a far cry from the digital cameras that we're so used to now, and it really makes you appreciate just how special the art of photography is.
I'm not sure I'd say that I invented a new technique. In all honesty, I'm not that clever. Someone must have done this before me, I simply can't find any record of it. Still, on a personal level, I came up with the idea on my own. And sometimes, experimentation of this sort is worthwhile to achieve results such as these. There's nothing fancy about this. No film is used, no developing is needed. Chemicals are unnecessary, and you only get one shot to get things right.
Spring in San Diego is a beautiful sight to behold. For most of the year, this lovely city is usually blanketed in a layer of brown and tan, due to the fact that we normally have very little water to let things grow. With the high amount of rain this winter though and a general warming trend, things have started to sprout. This is a perfect time to get out and photograph the green and rainbows of colors blossoming all around.
This photograph, though taken in August 2008, reminds me of this time of the year. It's a great example of using bokeh to enhance an image, and is one of my favorite stylistic tools for general use in photography. It was captured in Julian, California behind the Julian Pie Company restaurant on Main Street.
I love film, don't get me wrong. There's something just insanely special about permanently capturing light onto a physical object, as opposed to mere digital image sensor. The whole concept of that particular frame on the negative actually having been where it was taken just makes the photograph feel more intimate and personal. Call it nostalgia (even though I'm a youngin'), or call it hipster vintage. Either way, film is something that I just can't seem to detach myself from.
That being said, dealing with film is one of the most annoying things in the entire world. First of all, it costs a lot of money. If you can manage to find cheap C-41 film for $2 a roll, then develop just the negatives at a big-box retailer for another $2 a roll, you've already cost yourself $4 for anywhere from 24 to 36 exposures. Add on top of this the time you spend having to scan the negatives into a digital environment, and multiply this by however many rolls you plan to shoot, and you've just gained yourself a load of misery. To make matters worse, the film cameras I use are both unreliable. Sure, the results are often interesting and add a level of charm to the image, but I just wish my FED-3 at least had an exposure meter.
Still, I just can't shake the desire to shoot on film. Last year, I would shoot on cheap black and white film from China and develop it myself in a daylight loading tank with my trusty bottle of Diafine. Sadly, I needed money at the time, and decided to sell off much of that equipment. No matter how hard I try though, I know that I'll always come back to film, if only for a roll or two a couple times a year.
Veronica Belmont wrote on her personal blog yesterday about a new application called Poladroid. The software, a simple program offered in French and English, is currently available in beta for Mac OS 10.4 or later on www.poladroid.net. So what does this little 10mb program do? One thing, and one thing only. Polaroid.
Polaroid Corporation, makers of the retro instant-developing photo products we all love[d], actually filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Since then, all products branded "Polaroid" have merely licensed the name, and were most likely cheaply made in China (read: avoid anything with the name "Polaroid" on it). With the advent of digital photography, Polaroid cameras and film slowly entered into obscurity. Their simple nature and slow shot-to-shot speed made them a staple of urban street photography and contemporary vintage art movements. With digital, though, consumers could take shot after shot without much thought (rhyme zing!). Poladroid's purpose is to take those shots and turn them into the much-loved Polaroid-esque images of the past.
So why not just use a Photoshop plugin or batch script? Well, Poladroid is free, simple and fun. In order to process an image, all you do is drag the jpeg onto the program. A few seconds later, the "undeveloped" Polaroid is spit out, and begins slowly developing. Then you wait. And wait. And even though there's absolutely no reason for you to wait, you wait some more. And this is what makes Poladroid so charming. It's just like using a Polaroid camera, in a sense. You can only process up to 10 images too, just like a Polaroid film cartridge. And if you ask me, the results look pretty cool.
You can check out some of the images I've processed below, or you can find more on the program's official Flickr group.
This past Monday, I had the opportunity to sing at a Rosh Hashanah service down at Heritage Park in Old Town San Diego, California. While setting up chairs in the second level of the Jewish temple at the park, I came across two of these fantastic old reed organs. You could tell they were worn down and old, but they still played fine. The lighting up there was fantastic due to the setting sun and a series of small circular stained-glass windows, so I took as many pictures as I could. In the post-processing stage, I realized that I could emphasize the level of deterioration in the organ's finish by (once again) running the image through a single-file HDR plugin. The resulting image, though grainy, really brings out the age of this beautiful instrument. I only wish I had snooped around a little more and found a manufacture date on one of these organs.